Debussy: Musician of France

By Victor I. Seroff | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XI
BOHEMIAN PERIOD -- THE BREAK WITH GABY

THE FAILURE OF the doctor's prediction of LouŹs's imminent death and the last five frandcs in his pocket touched off an artistic collaboration between the two friends in the hope of solving one of their immediate mutual problems -- the threat of financial bankruptcy. LouŹs had no desire to do any work, but since his brother had offered him an income he felt compelled to do something. Shortly after his return to Paris he announced that he had been commissioned by Léon Carvalho, the director of the Opéra Comique, to write a libretto for a children's fable to be performed on Christmas Day by the Opéra Comique, and that Debussy was going to compose the music for it.

Grimm's "Fairy Tales" suddenly appeared on LouŹs's working desk and he spent many nights carefully reading Blanche-Neige (The Snow-maiden) in search of inspiration, while changing his future heroine's name in his mind from Geneviève to Kundrynette and, finally, to Cendrelune. In a "once-upon-a-time" story, which eventually he spun into two acts with ten scenes, Cendrelune, a poor little girl ill-treated by her "horrid stepmother," wants to run away into the woods. Neither the wise elderly village woman nor the saints to whom Cendrelune prays succeed in dissuading her from following fairy enticements into the woods. She enters the enchanted garden convinced that there, at last, she will find the mother whom she lost as a child.

Debussy became so enthusiastic about the project that he talked

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